This piece was inspired by a testimonial from one of our dedicated Partners.
Tita Mariel turned off the TV, let out a long sigh, and stared into nothingness in disbelief for a solid 5 minutes. She just heard in the news that Metro Manila will be going into lockdown in a few days to curb further COVID-19 spread and this means that she will now be truly isolated in her apartment. Living alone is not easy, especially at 58 years old with not a lot of relatives in the city. How would she adjust to this new situation?
A week of Enhanced Community Quarantine passed and she had to keep asking Camille, the receptionist of the building to check whether any of the tenants were willing to run some small errands for her, mainly because she knew she no longer has the strength to compete with everyone crowding and panic buying essentials at every shopping center. Hence, she was willing to pay them for the help, knowing that they must be restless and in fear of the impacts of pandemic on their lives, too.
Tita Mariel was just worried for these 7 days, wondering what other ways could there be to get by. She felt anxious and alone. It had been a rough time but it could have been worse, she thought to herself.
One morning, as she was walking towards the front desk, Camille got excited and hurried straight to Tita Mariel and said, “I found a solution for you! You might want to give it a shot.” She then showed Tita her phone, where she pulled up a list of services. ‘Grocery Shopping’ caught her attention at once, so Tita took hold of her phone and began to explore the page by pressing different buttons to see what the features were all about as Camille watched over her shoulder, guiding her to navigate the new scene.
“A friend shared this app with me on Facebook. It’s called MyKuya and they can connect you with people who can help you with shopping for your food, medicine, anything!” explained Camille.
“This is great, thanks iha,” replied Tita Mariel. She was about to head up to her unit when she heard someone shout “Wait!”. She turned around and it was Camille. “Can I have my phone back?” Camille asked with a laugh. Tita Mariel returned the phone a bit embarrassed and said “Sorry ha, I got excited.”
For an almost-senior-citizen, Tita Mariel actually knew how to work a smartphone, with the help of her son who had recently left for college. He initially only wanted to teach her how to use the video call feature, but Tita Mariel’s curiosity got him to explain all she needed to know to download apps and figure things out.
The next day she woke up at her usual 10am and booked someone to do her groceries for her as she was running out of her regular items. Tita pinned the nearest grocery store and got matched right away with ‘Kuya Abet.’
Kuya Abet: Good morning Ma’am, this is Kuya Abet. What items can I get for you today?
Tita Mariel: Good morning. Please fetch me the following things :)
3 cartons milk (1 litre each)
2 trays of eggs
2 kilos chicken breast
3 packs of spaghetti
2 kilos rice
1.5 kilos ground beef
5 small packs of tomato paste
1 package of butter
1 box of cheese
1 kilo of white and red onion
4 packs instant noodles
4 cans corned beef
½ kilo potatoes
Kuya Abet: No problem ma’am! I’m on the way.
An hour later, Tita Mariel heard a knock on her door and saw bags of groceries on her welcome mat, while Kuya Abet greets her from a safe distance. She was impressed, happy that she had found a way for her to be able to get things done. It turned out to be way easier than waiting for a condo neighbor to come by and help.
Kuya Abet was also very pleased that he can work and help out people like Tita Mariel.
“Ma’am, if I may ask, how
have things been for you? Are you holding up just fine? The world is going through a lot of unexpected changes right now and I notice that a lot of us are a bit confused and lost so I thought I’d check up on the people I meet while working.”
“It gets a little lonely sometimes, but I am grateful to have you and everyone at MyKuya working so hard to help people like me get by. It really is such a blessing,” Tita Mariel said with gratitude, “It’s getting a bit late, you must have your family waiting for you at home, I’m sorry for asking for so much. Maraming Salamat Abet.“
“Yes, yes, I do have to get going, my son is waiting for me so we can celebrate his birthday as a family, and no, please don’t be sorry, I chose this job because I had always felt like it is my responsibility to help people and I am happy that I could help you today,” he said with a chuckle.
Just as Kuya Abet began to walk towards his bike and make his way home, Tita Mariel called out, “Wait, please give me a moment.” She ran inside, picked up a couple of toys and a slice of cake from the fridge, before returning outside and scrambled through the items in the grocery bags Kuya Abet had just dropped off.
“Please take these with you. They aren’t much, but I want you to have them. Thank you again for helping me with my groceries today until such a late hour.” Tita Mariel said as she put everything in a separate plastic bag and handed it to Kuya Abet.
He was beyond belief and was only able to say, “This- This is too much, po.”
Tita Mariel comforted him and said, “Go home to your family, oh and tell your son I wished him a Happy Birthday. I believe he could enjoy some of the toys I’ve slipped in — I was going to pass them on to my niece but I can’t meet her because of the restrictions. They belonged to my son when he was a lot younger. Children grow up fast, don’t they?”
There was a moment of silence as Tita Mariel fondly looked back at how life was really different a few years ago. She broke the silence and said, “You can make a nice dinner for him with the ingredients I have put in there, too.”
“God bless you, po! I really appreciate all this and don’t know what to say. Have a good
Tita Mariel watched as Kuya Abet left with a smile behind his mask. She went inside and began getting ready for bed. Little did she know that her small act of kindness would delight Kuya Abet’s family, and make his son’s small birthday celebration a memorable one.